4 Lessons Artists Can Learn from VeggieTales

There’s one kid’s video series that most Christians love: VeggieTales.

As VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer has noted, the show became one of the bestselling direct-to-video series ever.

Here are 4 lessons artists can learn from VeggieTales and its creator Phil Vischer.

Many of these lessons are taken from Vischer’s book Me, Myself, and Bob

1. Go for Good Quality

One of the things that really makes VeggieTales stand out is its quality.

The jokes were funny in a way that both adults and kids could relate to.

The presentation was always great, even in early years when the CGI wasn’t perfect.

The format, where the characters put on shows about anything from Bible stories to superhero spoofs, let VeggieTales go pretty much anywhere with a small cast.

One of the reasons for this good quality can be found in Vischer’s book.

Vischer writes about Christian entertainment several times, always describing it objectively.

He notes good quality shows like McGee and Me and defines them as good because they were good as mainstream media.

He notes the poor quality of many 1980’s Christian kids’ shows and how he tried to do something different.

This attitude – recognizing good art, being honest about mediocre art and purposefully making something unusual – made VeggieTales exceptional.

2. You Don’t Necessarily Need An All-Christian Team

Big Idea Entertainment started with Phil Vischer and a core group who were all Christians.

Once they began hiring new animators though, legal regulations meant they couldn’t exclude non-Christians from working there.

So, much like the team behind The Passion of the Christ, VeggieTales’ production team was a mix of Christians from various denominations and non-Christians.

Vischer notes that these different groups often clashed with each other.

Christian employees from one denomination would offend employees from other denominations, and the Christian employees would offend non-Christian employees.

However, Vischer states these problems happened because he didn’t deliberately create a culture where everyone understood Big Idea Entertainment’s key focus and philosophy.

It’s also interesting to note that the quality of VeggieTales videos didn’t go down when non-Christian employees helped make them.

Non-Christians may have helped produce the stories, but the people who wrote the stories (primarily Vischer and Mike Nawrocki) always had Christian values.

The implication seems to be you don’t need a team where every single person is a Christian to make a Christian product.

Obviously, you need the people creating the stories and directing the product’s creation to be strong Christians

Those people must also deliberately create a work culture where everyone knows the company’s focus.

When it comes to the people running the small details though, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they’re all devout Christians.

Simply hire the people who can do the best job and will comply with the work culture.

That way, you find the best people, instead of hiring mediocre employees who happen to fit your agenda.

3. Small Can Be Good

It’s tempting to think that to have the best entertainment companies are always big.

After all, most of American entertainment is really controlled by a few huge companies like the Walt Disney Company and Time Warner.

However, depending on what product you make, you may have more success by keeping your company small.

Vischer devotes a lot of his book Me, Myself & Bob to discussing why his company went bankrupt in 2003.

One of his most important conclusions was that he decided he wanted Big Idea Entertainment to be as respected as companies like Disney.

So, he spent lots of money expanding the company – hiring the number of employees and paying employees the same amounts as companies like Disney.

Unfortunately, it turned out Big Idea Entertainment couldn’t make enough money to cover their expenses.

Their product (VeggieTales) was successful but was still a niche product.

As Vischer put it in a 2013 speech, “there was a ceiling to the number of Americans who wanted religious vegetable videotapes, and we hit that ceiling.”

Figure out the size that will keep your company healthy, and don’t be afraid if that means being small and independent.

4. Live for God Every Day

It can be tempting to think that if you’re making Christian art, your primary job is to make the art well.

However, your primary job is really just to live for God.

After watching Big Idea Entertainment go bankrupt and lose his control over the company, Vischer went through a soul-searching period.

He ultimately realized he’d made his success into an idol.

As he put it in the previously mentioned speech, he really wanted to be the next Walt Disney.

He ended up caring so much about becoming the next Walt Disney that he made choices that hurt his company.

As he dealt with that issue and learned to rely on God every day, the way he made his art changed.

If you want to have the most impact for God, submit to him every day in the little things.

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